This might just be the most optimistically-named car of the year – the 2020 Lexus LX Sport.
This car isn’t sporty in any recognisable way. Because it’s actually a hulking-great Toyota Land Cruiser with a bodykit and several acres of ‘spindle’ grille.
In principle, the Lexus LX is a fine car. Lexus takes the Land Cruiser, adds every conceivable gadget, lavish upholstery and slaps a few tens of thousands of dollars onto the price tag. It may be slightly cynical, but it’s a formula that works and the LX sells in pretty healthy numbers in the US.
The current J200-generation Land Cruiser may be getting on a bit now – it was launched in 2007 – but there are still few more capable SUVs. Oh sure, it’s not as stylish and refined as a Range Rover, even in Lexus guise. But it’s arguably even more capable off-road, it’s much more durable, has seven seats and can tow over three tons.
Power comes from an old-school, naturally-aspirated 5.7-litre V8 motor producing 383hp and 403lb/ft of torque, sent to all four wheels by an eight-speed automatic gearbox. 0-60mph takes a relatively leisurely 7.8secs and top speed is 137mph. Considering nobody buys a car like this to set speed records, it’s plenty rapid enough.
Nobody who buys an LX will be overly concerned about fuel economy, either. Even by the low standards of massive American SUVs it’s disastrously thirsty, recording just 15mpg combined on the American testing cycle.
As previously mentioned, this new Sport version is just a cosmetic exercise. There’s no more power and no special chassis tuning. Besides that gaping grille, it gets deeper bumpers and sides skirts with integral steps. Those elements seem to have been lifted from the Toyota Racing Developments catalogue. 21in wheels, body-colour door mirrors and extra chrome trim finish off the exterior.
Inside, there’s model-specific upholstery on all seven seats and the optional Luxury pack is thrown in. That includes four-zone climate control, heated and cooled seats, heated steering wheel, wireless phone charging, a head-up display and a 19-speaker Mark Levinson stereo.
The price for all this? $99,300 – about $16,000 more than a base-model LX. That’s actually slightly more than an equivalent Range Rover or Cadillac Escalade. But neither of those will be able to take as much abuse.
By Graham King